Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Harmful Household Cleaning Products and What They Can Do to Us

We live in a society that lives in constant fear of germs, dirt, bacteria and virus; hence manufacturers of household cleaning products can easily scare us into buying their wares. Regardless of the chemistry in household cleaning products, millions still choose to ignore how these household chemical hazards, affect not only our environment but also our health.

During the time that these products were introduced and in use for about twenty years, we were given a false sense of security that said cleaning materials truly eliminated the dreaded germs and bacteria. However, if this is really the case, haven’t you noticed that we are globally experiencing even worst cases of flu epidemics? In fact, a chronic disease such as asthma is now considered as a global epidemic. Recent statistics have shown that there is a growing incidence of respiratory illnesses common all over the world.

A recently published article A Closer Look at Asthma and Why it Reached Epidemic Proportions reported several reasons why asthma has reached epidemic proportions today, which include the harmful household cleaning products. Further, women are said to represent a large part of the asthma statistics because of their constant exposure to fumes emitted by these household chemical hazards. This and other chemical materials that were used to manufacture and build most of our household furnishings and building materials, contributed to the pollution of our indoor air.

Researches in Birmingham and Warwick universities in the UK fear that drug resistant bacteria developed through the run-off wastes of household chemical hazards, found in most of UK’s waterways. Part of the scientists’ fears is that the medicines available today will no longer be effective in controlling the diseases brought by these drug immune bacteria.

Most people are unaware of the fact that whatever is sent through the drain will be recycled and eventually form part of the local water source. The toxic wastes only encourage the growth of microbes carried in sewers, leading to streams and rivers and forms part of the local watershed where the community’s water supply comes from. Water supply may be treated but does not guarantee that all microbes therein have been eliminated. Hence, humans drink and use this water and will allow a microbe or two to thrive in the human body system. Any incidence of disease sparked by these bacteria can make any form of anti-bacterial or antibiotic medication become ineffective in combating the disease.

According to scientists, there are now drug resistant pathogens in our midst, slowly spreading out and creeping into communities. Over-prescriptions and misuse of antibiotics have caused this resistance and the medical community fears that their ability to control infections has eroded.

As of this period, the Earth is expected to experience another season of hurricanes, storms and floods which will render our houses susceptible to the wetness, dampness and growth of molds and mildew. Waters will surge with great amounts of debris and will leave our surroundings infected by all kinds of microbes. We will yet experience another of those urges to use these strong and potent chemically formulated household cleaning products.

However, stop for awhile and reflect. We have been using them for about twenty years now, but are we any safer and free from diseases since we started using them? Is it just us or even every nation all across the globe, who experience environmental degradation as well as health deterioration, in spite of our use of these products?

In fact, our condition is not any better than that of our old folks, who only used baking soda, lime, vinegar and other similar substances in keeping their homes clean. Today, household cleaning products contain some of the following household chemical hazards, and why they are considered as harmful:

Sodium hypochlorite or chlorine bleach is composed of chlorine gas absorbed by sodium hydroxide solution. True, it is effective when used as a disinfectant and stain remover, but it is also carcinogenic when mixed with other organic materials. The fumes of the chlorine compound can burn the eyes and skin on contact but the mere inhalation of its fumes can burn the mucus membranes.

Nitrobenzene, this chemical substance cannot be dissolved in water and is often used shoe polishes, floor polishes and other cleaning materials. It has been determined to cause damage to the nervous system, affect vision, impair kidney and liver, and cause anemia as well as lung irritations when a person has been subjected to prolonged exposure. It can be absorbed by the skin and can speed up the heart rate, cause convulsion and in rare cases, death. Fume inhalation can induce headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness; weaken the arms and legs and even death.

Phenol or carbolic acid widely used in cleaning materials, cosmetics, drugs and a host of other products used by an ordinary consumer. This substance is an alternative embalming ingredient to formaldehyde, also a substance widely used even in foods as a preservative. Prolonged skin contact to these substances lead to dermatitis, its vapors are corrosive even to the respiratory tract causing lung edema, and can affect the nervous system, heart, and kidneys which can cause impairment and eventual failure of the organs. In fact, this substance is a suspected carcinogen or cancer causing ingredient.

The above mentioned chemical substances form part of the chemistry in household cleaning products, and they are only examples of the rest. They affect human health as well as the environment when they are carried as waste water run-offs that pass through our drains and goes back down the streams and rivers. As time passes, they will continue to pollute our waterways and sources of water. They will come back to wreak havoc and maybe not in our lifetime but in our children’s and the generations that will succeed them.

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